My experience that I decided to write about was from my elementary school days. In my hometown there is something that happens with all the elementary schools in the Catholic division. It occurs when students are around the age of twelve. It takes the students from the city and places them in the “wilderness”. It is a five-day adventure that places students in bunks like summer camps. Students canoe, learn to build fires, do scavenger hunts, learn orienteering, and sing camp songs. It was a great experience and memory of my childhood. I chose to draw the image of sitting around a campfire because that was a major focal point of the five-day excursion. It is an image that portrays the colonialist ideals of being outdoors. But it could be a method of explaining Indigenous traditions by maybe including an elder telling stories around the fire.
It has been a while since I went but from my recollection there was no information administered that relates to Indigenous people and their relationship to the land. This program was lead by teachers in the school system. I believe there was no acknowledgement because it was not a box that needed to be checked at the time. During the early to late 2000’s teachers did not acknowledge the Indigenous relation to the land. And there was no acknowledgment of the treaty land we were on. Yet now, being a part of the teacher education process, it is a major topic that all students need to be aware of. The school camping trip was a moment that created for students to create relationships with others and to go into nature. The excerpt written by Newbery in Canoe Pedagogy and Colonial History: Exploring contested spaces of outdoor environmental education describes the experience as, “seeking to inspire students with natural beauty.” I bet that now, it being 2019, that topics used have been infused with Indigenous perspectives.
We also need to make connections to the land. Indigenous people held and still hold a strong relationship to the Earth. Seeing as the camping trip was trying to inspire the young students with nature there should at least be some respect there. Using Indigenous ideas of Mother Earth the students should develop that unconditional love towards the Earth as they have for their biological mothers. Using this camping trip only introduces students to the Earthly relationship. As Robin Wall Kimmerer writes in her book Braiding Sweetgrass, “Breathing in the scent of Mother Earth stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, the same chemical promotes bonding between mother and child.” If we as teachers can begin our adventures by bringing students to nature but include further elaboration on subjects through Indigenous eyes we can break the colonial narrative that has plagued schools for years.
Newbery, L. (2012). Canoe Pedagogy and Colonial History: Exploring contested spaces of outdoor environmental education. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education. 17, 34.
Wall Kimmerer, Robin. (2013). Sitting in a Circle, in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & the Teachings of Plants, pp. 236. Minnesota, MN: Milkweed Editions. (Course Text)